#BlackLivesMatter: A Guide For Confused White People

#BlackLivesMatter: A Guide For Confused White People

Don't all lives matter? Doesn't pro-black mean anti-white? Why can't I say the N-word?
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Here are seven helpful ways to begin lifting our impenetrable veils of white privilege in response to #BlackLivesMatter. I ask that you please consider these steps before changing your statuses to #BlueLivesMatter, or absentmindedly scrolling past the video of Philando Castile’s spontaneous public execution at the hands of a fatally overzealous police officer.

1. First and foremost, saying that #BlackLivesMatter does not translate to #WhiteLivesDoNot. Our comfy privilege blanket makes us feel like we’re being attacked by anything that doesn’t explicitly include us, but this isn’t the case. No one is suggesting that black lives are more meaningful than those of non-black individuals. If it’s helpful for you, maybe mentally attach the words “too,” “also,” or “as much as mine does,” to the end of the phrase. And in case you’re inclined to snidely retort that all lives matter – of course they do, but America can’t credibly make that case until we stop treating our black citizens as if they’re second-class.

2. Before you use the Dallas police shootings try to write off #BlackLivesMatter as a terrorist organization that spews anti-white or anti-police rhetoric, I want to remind you that we did not blame all white Christians for the actions of the racially-motivated attacks by Dylann Roof in Charleston last summer. The movement is pro-black, undoubtedly, but contrary to what we might be quick to assume, this does not at all mean anti-white. Instead, being pro-black is to ask white people to do the untidy, uncomfortable job of assessing how our whiteness positively impacts our lives at the expense of fewer opportunities for black Americans.

3. It’s time to acknowledge our white privilege and all of the things it does for us and absolutely nobody else. If you’re confused by what it means, check out Peggy McIntosh’s quintessential 1988 essay on it. If you’re from Chicago and you demand proof, you can see how whiteness is actively working for you and against people of color in neighborhoods such as Logan Square and Pilsen. These historically Latino communities have been gentrified, meaning white people moved in and took advantage of the low-rent costs, but as our presence increased, rent skyrocketed, which pushed Latinos out and effectively erased their ties to these areas. Just thought I’d throw that one tiny example in for anyone building a “Whiteness is a Plague to the Earth” evidence portfolio.

4. Straight, white, male readers, this may be a difficult pill for you to swallow, but you are not the arbitrator of what is and is not oppressive towards minority communities. The designated oppressor does not define the realities of the oppressed. So, if your female coworker tells you that your “harmless” joke was sexist, believe her. If your gay cousin informs you that your usage of the word “gay” is offensive, believe him. If #BlackLivesMatter tells you that our society is so structured in a way that relies upon the oppression, incarceration and extermination of black and brown men, women and children, believe them.

5. If you’re over the age of fifty, or you’ve only ever read history books written by white dudes, you may find yourself puzzled by the movement. #BlackLivesMatter seems superfluous, you may be thinking; after all, black people have “come so far.” To be sure, nixing water fountains and lunch counters “for coloreds” was an important milestone, but white supremacy was not dismantled the moment John F. Kennedy shook Martin Luther King, Jr.’s hand after his “I Have A Dream” speech. I, too, was shocked when I heard the news that the Civil Rights decade didn’t totally undo centuries of oppression. Alas, the struggle lives on, mostly because white people aren’t ready to say that it does.

6. The predecessors and contemporaries of #BlackLivesMatter, such as the Black Panthers, the NAACP and #BlackGirlMagic do not seek to erase the contribution of other cultures to the fabric of American life. Rather, they are asserting their creativity, intelligence, beauty, worth and humanity into the spaces (music, television, film, art, broadcast news, etc.) that have rejected them for centuries. Our cute, “Kim K-Inspired” cornrows appropriate the black culture that we ridiculed until we ripped it off of a black girl’s head and crowned ourselves with it. As Jesse Williams explained, the black experience is not one that we are allowed to try when it suits us and take off when it doesn’t. And just while we’re dancing around this subject — being Biggie’s biggest fan doesn’t give you a pass to rap along to, “If you don’t know, now you know, n****.” Just permanently cut that word out of your vocabulary.

7. Finally, white readers, please don’t ignore #BlackLivesMatter just because you can. The post-racial, land of the free American dreamland that we all lie about has no chance of becoming a reality if we can’t even acknowledge the ways in which we’ve thwarted the efforts of anti-white supremacy movements. If you’re unsettled by the loss of any human life, please write your legislators and implore them to restructure our militarized, quasi-genocidal police departments. Talk to your black and brown friends and peers to understand the ways in which racism still hurts them today, right now, this moment. A thorough understanding of the problem will lead to a proper diagnosis and, fingers crossed, an eventual cure to the racism and xenophobia that has plagued our country since its conception.

Cover Image Credit: Tumblr

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Why Growing Up In Lynn Massachussetts Made Me Racially Color Blind

One girl's story about how her city made her realize how important diversity truly is.
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When I was in second grade at Hood Elementary School our teacher asked us to look at our classmates next to us and write down something that we all have in common. While everyone seemed to be writing down the same basic ideas, such as parents, clothes, fingers, toes, etc.., I wrote down "We all have hearts." As the teacher read my answer aloud, she was blown away and all my classmates sitting next to me came up and hugged me. Even at such a young age in such a diverse classroom, we all recognized the inside of a person's heart is way more important than how they look on the outside.

The city of Lynn, Massachusetts is known for its rare, beautiful diversity. I had the privilege of growing up there and honestly I would not have wanted to be raised anywhere else. The unique acceptance of such diversity in a big city is the reason I am the woman I am today. When I first meet someone, I see no color. If I am judging someone, I am not judging their race, their clothes, or how they look but I am judging how they talk to me and how they treat others around them.

Growing up in Lynn gives you the advantage of viewing people inside out, race having no value in how you see a person. The melting pot that is my group of friends has truly given me such insight on how different cultures live and celebrate their lives. Yes, I am a white girl who knows how to Bachata, a specific Spanish dance, and I thank diversity for that. Even at only 20 years old, I feel like I have lived a lifetime due to all of the different cultures I have been able to embrace while living in Lynn. I have seen strangers, and even friends my age experience all different walks of life. From the bottom end of the spectrum on Union and Essex street, to the highest end moving toward Ward 1, I have seen it all.

As I moved away from Lynn and into the spectacular city of Boston, I realized something. Making roommates with strangers from towns I had never heard of before made me realize how much I missed Lynn. I have met people here in the city who never even had a black person in their school and when I try to converse with them about race or politics they are so one-sided because they have only ever seen one side. I feel sorry for them because they were never able to experience all the amazing people and cultures I have been able to experience. They have never gone to a party with Spanish, Cambodian and Jamaican music playing all at the same time. They have never tried a pastellito. They have never danced Bachata. They have never seen how truly beautiful diversity really is.

In the wake of everything going on in our country lately between Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter, I ask you to stop, take a second and picture the other side. Take your one-sided mind and open your eyes because the only way we can save ourselves from this is to be unified. Diversity is beautiful, and you are, too.

Cover Image Credit: ushersnewlook

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My White Privilege Vs. My Friend's Black Oppression

WE NEED TO USE OUR VOICE AND TAKE A STAND!

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Now, I know many of you are going to read this article and scoff at the term "white privilege." Well, let me just be blunt and say that you are an ignorant person that needs to wake up and see the world for what it truly is. It is not all rainbows and butterflies for everyone out there because not everyone in this world is given the same opportunities and the same treatment as us.

When I say "us," I am referring to white people and yes, I am including myself.

I am going to get real and for you ignorant people, if you do not get the message after this, then I feel sorry for you and I will pray that one day your stupidity is swallowed by the truth: white privilege, racism and oppression is REAL.

Breyonna Miller is a 21-year-old African American female that attends the College of Charleston with me. I, Lyric Richardson, am a 21-year-old white female. We are both majoring in special education and plan to graduate in the spring of 2019. Our dreams consist of teaching in our own classrooms and helping children with disabilities work towards independence.

We have a ton in common with each other, but our lives are so different just because of our skin color. This is evident with just a few experiences between us being compared.

1. Interactions With Law Enforcement

I was pulled over once for speeding. I was pretty mad about getting pulled over because I really did not think that I had been speeding. Naturally, I got quite an attitude with the officer. I even threw my license and registration at him when he asked for it. In the end, I received a ticket that was dropped in court when I chose to appeal it.

Breyonna and some of her friends were leaving a party two summers ago when she was pulled over. Her car was suspected to be the car of people who were shooting guns in a parking lot. The girls in the car were dressed exactly as you would think girls coming from a party would be dressed. It was clear they were not the people who had been shooting up a parking lot. However, the police refused to allow Breyonna to say a word in defending herself. Instead, they held the girls at gun point and told them to "keep their f***ing hands up before they shoot."

After Breyonna and her friends were forced to sit there and fear for their lives, the police told them to leave after discovering the girls were not who they were looking for. Breyonna drove away with no apology from the officers, and an emotional and mental scar permanently etched into her life.

2. The Educational System

I soared through school with high grades and all the support I could possibly get from elementary school all the way to high school. My teachers constantly reminded how successful I would be in my future. My high school guidance counselor spoke with me once a month to make sure I was applying for college and thriving in my academics.

All in all, I was put on a track that set me up to be successful. To top it off, I was encouraged to apply for all types of scholarships to help me pay for a college education. I was also rewarded these scholarships and three years later, I am still receiving them.

Breyonna was considered the "token black child." Yes, she was placed in classes that were considered honors and even though she deserved to be there, the teachers did not see it that way. In the teacher's eyes, they now had to "accommodate" for this black child that was placed in the classroom because the school needed some way to show that there is diversity among the academic achievers.

Breyonna was motivated enough that she pushed through and fought her way to college. Like most students, she needed some financial assistance. Breyonna applied for ROAR in which she would receive a grant to help her continue pursuing a degree. However, the College chose to discontinue this program, so Breyonna was forced to make up the difference by pulling out of her own pocket.

3. Blunt Oppression and Racism

I can honestly say that no one has ever truly insulted me based on my skin color, age, gender, intelligence, or any other aspect of my life that hurt me. Every now and then I hear a blonde joke or my male friends try to intimidate me in sports. However, none of these things cut me so deep that I could not recover.

In contrast, Breyonna has been left speechless at some words that have been thrown at her. She works in a fine dining restaurant which can be automatically associated with wealthy white people. She once had customers tell her to clear their table "like the servant she is." We all are raised and taught to defend ourselves when such hurtful things are said to us, but when someone says something so blunt and casually like that, you are left with no words to defend yourself with.

This is the sad world we live in today and the unfortunate news is that this type of hatred and oppression is not going anywhere anytime soon.

We cannot force people to change their hearts that are full of hate, but we can certainly educate them on the matter. I know this article will not change how some people see the world and it will not make them want to be a better person, but my hope is that for those of you it did reach, do something about it

Actions speak louder than words.

Do not just apologize for being unaware of white privilege. Do not just recognize that racism and oppression exist. Be aware, use your voice, and take a stand!

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